GENEVA (AP) — Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has triggered “the most massive violations of human rights” in the world today, the head of the United Nations said Monday, as the war pushed into its second year with no end in sight.
The Russian invasion “has unleashed widespread death, destruction and displacement,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said in a speech to the U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in Geneva.
After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital in the opening weeks of the invasion and suffering a series of humiliating setbacks in the east and the south during the fall, Russia has stabilized the front and is concentrating its efforts on a slow push to capture the rest of the Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas. Ukraine, meanwhile, hopes to use battle tanks and other new weapons pledged by the West to launch new counteroffensives and reclaim more of the occupied territory.
He said “attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure have caused many casualties and terrible suffering.”
His remarks came as the Ukrainian military said that Russia launched attacks with exploding drones on several regions of the country that lasted from late Sunday until Monday morning, killing two.
Guterres cited cases of sexual violence, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and violations of the rights of prisoners of war documented by the U.N. human rights office.
Guterres decried how the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, now 75 years old, has been “too often misused and abused.”
“It is exploited for political gain and it is ignored, often, by the very same people,” Guterres said. “Some governments chip away at it. Others use a wrecking ball.”
“This is a moment to stand on the right side of history,” he told the council, the U.N.’s top human rights body. Russia withdrew from its seat last year amid a surge in international pressure over the war in Ukraine.
Russian officials have shown little sign they may be reconsidering their attack on their neighbor, however.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, “We aren’t seeing any conditions for a peaceful settlement now.”
Dmitry Medvedev, the deputy head of Russia’s Security Council that is chaired by President Vladimir Putin, went a step further, once again raising the specter of nuclear war and a nightmare outcome to Europe’s biggest and deadliest conflict since World War II.
He chided the U.S. and its allies for providing Ukraine with military and other support to help push back the Kremlin’s forces. Their longer-term aim, he claimed, is to break up Russia.
“They have crazy illusions that after finishing off the Soviet Union without a single shot they could bury today’s Russia without any significant problems for themselves simply by disposing thousands of lives in the conflict,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous mistake, it won’t work like it did with the Soviet Union."
Putin has also framed the war in those terms, saying it's an existential risk to Russia.
In the Sunday-Monday attacks, Ukraine’s General Staff said Kyiv's forces shot down 11 out of 14 Iranian-made Shahed drones.
Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday that at least two civilians were killed and nine others were wounded by Russian attacks over the previous 24 hours.
It said that intense fighting has continued around Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Vuhledar in the Donetsk region, which have come under relentless Russian shelling. Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russia is using aircraft and heavy artillery there.
In the south, the city of Kherson also came under Russian shelling, killing one and wounding two civilians. The city of Nikopol across the Dnieper from the Russia-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant also was struck by the Russian shelling, which damaged residential buildings, power lines and a gas pipeline.
Odesa and the surrounding region suffered a complete blackout Monday. The authorities didn’t give the reason for it, but said that repair crews will start work to restore the energy supply.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine